ARLINGTON -- The Blue Jays need to win their next three games to stay alive in the American League Division Series, and they'll have to do it without the services of left-hander Brett Cecil.
Cecil was officially ruled out for the rest of the year on Saturday afternoon after he tore his left calf muscle during a rundown in Game 2 on Friday night. Toronto added right-hander Ryan Tepera to the roster as Cecil's replacement.
The injury is a huge blow to a Blue Jays team that has no margin for error the rest of the way. It's also a devastating setback on a personal level for Cecil, who is one of the longest tenured players in Toronto. He had been waiting for this moment for seven years.
"I cried walking back to my locker," a somber Cecil said Saturday afternoon. "... Not only lose the first two games, almost lost [Josh Donaldson] and [Jose] Bautista, but I go down and it's not the way I perceived it ending, that's for sure."
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons will now have to find a way to replace Cecil's quality innings, and it's not going to be easy. The 2013 All-Star has been one of the best relievers in the game for the past several years, and he was in the midst of what was quite possibly the best run of his career.
Cecil had not allowed an earned run since June 24, and he was expected to be a key to victory in this ALDS series against the Rangers. Texas features up to five left-handed bats in its starting lineup, and all of them have the ability to do some damage: Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland, Josh Hamilton and Rougned Odor.
One man's loss is another man's opportunity, and it will be up to left-hander Aaron Loup to fill the void. Loup was the last pitcher added to bullpen when the ALDS rosters were officially announced Wednesday, and now he becomes one of their primary setup man.
"It's unfortunate what happened to Brett, you never want to see a teammate go down," Loup said. "But with him going down, I guess it opens a few doors for me, a few opportunities to get into some more crucial points of the game. With that being said, I won't change the way I do anything, or approach anything, I'll just have a few more opportunities."
Loup made his postseason debut in Game 2, and he retired both hitters he faced in Hamilton and Odor. It was a strong debut, and it might help him close the door on an inconsistent 2015 regular season that saw him post a 4.46 ERA in 60 games. The one positive was that his numbers against lefties were better than righties with a .704 OPS compared to .825.
Tepera isn't expected to factor into the setup role, but he could be used early if Game 3 starter Marco Estrada struggles, or if the Blue Jays and Rangers are forced into extra innings for the second consecutive game. Tepera joined the Blue Jays on Saturday after spending the past several days working out at Toronto's Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla., to stay sharp.
"It's unfortunate what happened, Cecil has been a big part of this bullpen, and he has been throwing really well. But that's why they sent us down to Florida, to stay in shape for this case. I was down there, threw one inning, a couple of us came in every day, worked out, threw to hitters, I'm ready to go."